Stop being manipulated
A reader writes, “I read your article on manipulation (http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/manipulation.htm) and wonder if you have other suggestions for someone in my position. You see, besides raising my daughter, my husband and I adopted her three-year-old special-needs child and raised her as our own. Both girls are now adults. Yet, my daughter continues to depend on us for help. She acts as a victim, complaining she cannot live on the salary of her 25-hour-a-week part-time job. She expects me to drive her to and from work every day and help her pay her bills. She can be very manipulating and I’m getting fed up with the situation. How do I get out of the mess I find myself in?”
Answer: I believe you already know what needs to be done and are seeking validation rather than advice. That is, you want to hear from another that it is okay to stop caving in to your daughter’s demands and force her to fend for herself. The reason you hesitate to end the manipulation is because of guilt. The one thing manipulators are good at is weaving a web of guilt to ensnare their victims and suck them dry. Once you understand all their dirty tricks, you won’t feel guilty about standing up for your rights. To learn all about the tricks used by manipulators and to empower yourself, buy or borrow a copy of IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George K. Simon, Jr., Ph.D., (clinical psychologist), published by A. J. Christopher & Company, 1996. For an excerpt from the book, packed with useful advice, visit http://www.rickross.com/reference/brainwashing/brainwashing11.html.
You first need to stop giving in to your daughter’s emotional blackmail. When she says, “If you don’t help me pay my bills, I’ll end up living in the street,” then you say, “Not if you get another job.” If she says, “If you don’t help me, you’re a terrible mother, and I never want to see you again,” then you say, “I’m sorry you feel that way, If you later change your mind, I’m always here to give you emotional support, but I will no longer act as a bank and taxi service.” When she says, “I can’t believe you’re so selfish. Don’t you care about what happens to me?” then you say, “Of course I do. I love you. That’s why I refuse to allow you to grow into a weak person, dependent on others. The more I cave in to your demands, the more I stunt your growth and encourage you to become a helpless victim. It’s time for you to learn how to take care of yourself, and it’s time for me to take care of your dad and I.”
Of course, I’m not implying that your daughter is a bad person. After all, we all cope with life in the best way we can at the time. She’s just looking for the easiest way to meet her needs. She thought of asking you for help and it worked, so she will continue doing so until you stop. Once you force her to fend for herself, both of you will be surprised by the progress she makes.
To strengthen your resolve to do the right thing, consider the negative consequences of not acting and the positive consequences of acting. First, let’s look at some of the negative effects of continuing to give in to your daughter’s unreasonable demands.
1. As long as your daughter leeches off you, she is failing to take responsibility for her life and as long as you cave in to her demands, you are failing to take responsibility for your life. This is not a dress rehearsal. We have only one chance at life. The time to do the right thing is now.
2. As long as you give in to her demands, you are enabling her. That is, you are encouraging her to remain a victim, rather than become a victor.
3. As long as the situation remains unchanged you will not be able to respect and admire your daughter or yourself.
4. She doesn’t respect and admire herself.
5. She is growing increasingly helpless.
6. The situation is stressful and has a negative impact on your family’s mental and physical health.
7. The situation is ruining your relationship with your daughter.
8. If the situation is left unabated, negative emotions such as resentment, frustration, anger, and hostility can lead to a serious rift.
9. If you don’t look after yourself, who will? It’s important to learn how to set up boundaries. To learn how to, see http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/boundary_setting.htm.
10. If you allow your adult daughter to depend on you to get by, what will she do when you and your husband are no longer around? How will she survive?
Now, let’s focus on some of the benefits of standing up for yourself.
1. When you start acting assertively, besides cutting stress and ending negative emotions, you will develop courage and gain control over your life.
2. You will develop pride and respect for your daughter as she learns to cope for herself.
3. Your relationship will heal.
When rejecting your daughter’s pleas for handouts, keep in mind three points. First, be empathetic. That is, let her know you understand how she feels. Second, explain the problem clearly. Third, explain what is expected.
Here is an example conversation that uses the three steps.
“Mom, I’ll need to borrow another $120 from you at the end of this month.”
“Sorry, honey, I won’t be able to help you out financially anymore.”
“Mom, how can you say that? If I don’t pay the rent, I’ll end up in the street.”
“Sorry, I know you are disappointed. I’ll tell you what, since you did not have an earlier warning, I’ll help you one last time; but you’ll have to get by on $60. And if you don’t have enough to pay for the rent and don’t want to end up in the street, I suggest you get another job.”
“Mom! How can you be so cruel!”
“How can asking you to stand on your own two feet be considered cruel? Isn’t that what is expected from everyone? From now on, that’s what I expect from you. I love you and will always be here to provide moral support. I’m sure at first it will be difficult for you to make the needed adjustments to support yourself, but I have confidence in your abilities.”
“I don’t know what to say. I’m in shock. I can still count on you to take me to and from work, right?”
“Yes, for the next two weeks. For the following two weeks, I’ll take you twice a week. After that I’m afraid you’re on your own. You’ll have to do what everyone else who doesn’t have a car does, take public transportation.”
“One reason is taking you to work interferes with my lifestyle. Another reason is to successfully survive in today’s world you have to learn how to be independent. If I continue to chauffeur you around, I would be negligent in my parental duty. I refuse to encourage you to become helpless. I expect you to become strong and independent. It may be hard for you at first, but in the long run it will pay big dividends.”
I’ll end with two more points. First, as I wrote earlier, the chief weapon of a manipulator is GUILT. But if you must feel guilty, feel guilty about encouraging your daughter to become helpless. Refuse to cave in to her demands, not for your own convenience, but for her own good.
Finally, the second favorite tool of the manipulator is persistence. That is, they keep making demands, wearing you down, until you finally give in. So, to successfully break free, you must be equally persistent, never backing down, until they finally get the message. It may take time, so please be patient. I wish our reader and her family great success and happiness.